“We can't be certain that extending the ground operation will turn this war around. Conventional armies have never defeated guerillas. Can only possible success justify the almost certainly high death toll? Extending the ground operation will also put paid to any diplomatic initiatives. If there is even the slightest hope that these could work, he [Ehud Olmert] has a duty to try and save Israeli lives by giving them proper consideration.”
I wrote these words on August 9 2006 in one of the many emails I sent out during the Second Lebanon War to numerous recipients in Israel and abroad.
I have just been re-reading these missives, together with a whole string of articles that were written at the time by expert analysts.
The more I remind myself of events back then, the more concerned I am that we will be giving Hamas terrorists hunkered down in Gaza exactly what they want if we send in ground troops. The death toll on our side could be horrendous and it is not at all clear that we will end up in a better position than we are now.
There have been accusations by some writers in newspapers here that Israel has gone “soft”: parents are putting too much pressure on the decision-makers because we are trying to protect our soldier kids.
Can it honestly be said that Israel’s strategy so far has been “soft”? Is it so unreasonable to try to prevent even more death and destruction - and certainly on our own side?
David Grossman writes compellingly in today’s Haaretz:
“After its severe strike on Gaza, Israel would do well to stop, turn to Hamas' leaders and say: Until Saturday Israel held its fire in the face of thousands of Qassams from the Gaza Strip. Now you know how harsh its response can be. So as not to add to the death and destruction we will now hold our fire unilaterally and completely for the next 48 hours. Even if you fire at Israel, we will not respond with renewed fighting. We will grit our teeth, as we did all through the recent period, and we will not be dragged into replying with force.
Moreover, we invite interested countries, neighbours near and far, to mediate between us and you to bring back the cease-fire. If you hold your fire, we will not renew ours. If you continue firing while we are practicing restraint, we will respond at the end of this 48 hours, but even then we will keep the door open to negotiations to renew the cease-fire, and even on a general and expanded agreement.”
The article concludes:
”And one more, unavoidable thought: Had we adopted this attitude in July 2006, after Hezbollah abducted the soldiers, had we had stopped then, after our first response, and declared we were holding our fire for a day or two to mediate and calm things down, the reality today might be entirely different.
This is also a lesson the government should learn from that war. In fact, it might be the most important lesson.”
David Grossman’s son, Uri, died August 12 2006 with 24 other soldiers in the controversial final 48 hours of the Second Lebanon War.